Tips to get the most benefit our of your time with your physician.
During the short stints of time patients sit down face-to-face with health care providers, some of their most important questions and concerns may go unaddressed. Getting the most value out of your interactions with your physician beings with planning before your appointment.
Be on time
Showing up on time means something different for every patient. Patients should arrive at whatever time allows them to be in the exam room, ready to be seen by their doctor at the appointment time. This means accounting for the time it takes to fill out forms when you arrive. If you are a returning patient, 10 minutes might be enough. If you are a new patient, come in a half hour early because of the extra steps, including scanning your insurance card and driver’s license and verifying your deductible.
We want to see patients on time. If they’re showing up right at the start of the appointment, then it delays when we get started with the consultation and ultimately how much time we spend together. The nursing staff also needs to stick to the schedule for subsequent appointments. The amount of patients seen in a day can vary by practice, but in primary care, we see an average of 20–25 patients per day, so that really only allows for about 15 minutes of in-person appointment time.
Bring questions and notes
Bring clearly defined questions and notes about any symptoms you may have to your appointment. Many patients come in and get flustered or sidetracked and leave before they realize they had more questions to ask. It helps to have a designated plan going into the visit.
Notes are especially important to accurately document your symptoms. It’s not always easy to recall every symptom you’ve experienced throughout the previous days or weeks. Keeping a running list on your phone or written notes can eliminate confusion. This also helps your doctor understand how to more accurately diagnose your condition.
Document the conversation
It’s common to have a patient be so worried about getting to their next question that they don’t really hear what the doctor says, so it helps to have something to go back and reference. Either take detailed notes or record the conversation on your phone with your doctor’s permission.
It is a good idea for elderly patients to bring a family member or caretaker to the appointment. This is a demographic of patients that are usually treated with very sophisticated medications, so the amount of information presented can be overwhelming.
It really helps to have someone else there to decipher and explain what is being said.
Also, patients should bring in all medications they are taking. Remembering prescription names is difficult. Allowing the physician to see what they are taking instead of guessing what the nightly “blue pill” means can be greatly beneficial.
Patients should never ignore the fact that honesty is important. Do not be afraid to share what you may deem embarrassing symptoms or uncomfortable topics. Your doctor needs to know the truth about your health. These tools allow us to give accurate diagnosis and treatment, and that is always the number one priority of any health care professional.
Jeff Goudreau, M.D., FACP, is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Native American Specialist who has practiced in the same Dallas location for 28 years, with over 160,000 patient visits. Dr. Goudreau has practiced general internal medicine, sports medicine and adolescent medicine, and has worked as a U.S. Olympic physician for 17 years, most recently at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.